Abolition of Zamindari in India

The major objective of land reforms in free India was to abolish intermediaries and to bring changes in the revenue system that would be favourable to cultivators. The process of abolition of Zamindari, Jagirdari, Ryotwari etc. system had started even before the constitution of India came into effect.

Position of the intermediaries at the time of independence

On the eve of the independence, there were two extremes in India. On one extreme, there were landless labourers and tenants-at-will while on the other end, there were big landlords having huge estates. However, various tenancy systems had undergone vast transformation in 150 years of their practice. The coexistence of Zamindari, Mahalwari and Ryotwari led to intermixing of their characteristics, which led to drastic problems at the time of enactment of Zamindari abolition laws. The intermixing of the various systems made it difficult to know who was the rentier. This problem was made further complex due to land sub-letting, absentee landlords, absence of proper records etc. The most harassing feature was absence of proper revenue records which made the task of abolition of intermediaries very difficult. Thus, there was a need felt for complete census of land holdings.

Zamindari Abolition Acts

The first important agrarian reform after independence was the abolition of the Zamindari system. The process of passing Zamindari abolition bills had started even when the constitution of India was not enacted. A number of provinces such as United Provinces (UP), Central Provinces, Bihar, Madras, Assam, Bombay had introduced such bills on the basis of a Zamindari Abolition committee, chaired by G.B. Pant. However, there was a widespread concern that he Zamindars would make every effort to cause delay in acquisition of their lands. When constitution was passed, right to property was enshrined as fundamental right under article 19 and 31. The provinces passed the Zamindari Abolition Acts but all these acts were challenged in the court on account of their constitutional validity. The supreme court upheld the rights of Zamindars. To secure the constitutional validity of these state acts, the parliament passed first amendment (1951) within 15 months of enactment of the constitution and second amendment in 1955. By 1956, Zamindari abolition act was passed in many provinces. Due to conferment of land rights, around 30 lakh tenants and share-croppers were able to acquire the ownership rights over a total cultivated area of 62 lakh acres throughout the country due to these acts. On the other hand, the compensation paid to Zamindars was generally small and varied from state to states.

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